NFL Week 3: Austin Collie and 10 Young Stars Who Broke Out
Barring some kind of snore-fest in tonight's game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears at Solider Field, Week 3 in the NFL has been quite successful in terms of excitement.
To give a brief recap, this week's play has given every fan a taste of what is possibly to come in the future. The Chiefs are 3-0, the Falcons are now tied with the New Orleans Saints atop the NFC South, the 49ers continue to struggle, and, most surprisingly, Michael Vick is lighting it up in Philadelphia like it was 2004.
But aside from the weeks big time storylines, some surprising players stood up in Week 3, in the likes of the league's talented and explosive young guns.
For those that witnessed the Indianapolis vs. Denver game, you would be pleasantly aware of Austin Collie's on field brilliance, along with Mark Sanchez's consistency down south in Miami.
So who were the Top 10 most impressive young stars of the week?
Roll over and find out, they promise not to disappoint.
10. Louis Murphy
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To kick it all off, we take a look at Oakland's second year player Louis Murphy, who left it all on the field this weekend against Arizona.
In Week 1 of the regular season, Louis Murphy looked extraordinarily flat against the Tennessee Titans. He was suffering against a tough defense, and his 28 yard effort certainly wasn't enough to please head coach Tom Cable.
Yet as disappointing as Murphy's season opener was, his Week 2 and Week 3 efforts definitely got him out of the dog house and back in Cable's good book.
At the end of the day, Louis Murphy finished the game with 119 yards. Sure, no touchdown was recorded, but his yardage accomplishments are enough to state how great Louis Murphy looked against the Cardinals.
Not only is this a great story to follow for the course of the season, it is also a bonus for the Raiders. The team has been constantly criticized for being unable to gain a No. 1 wide receiver over the offseason, and now that a young player like Murphy has stepped up, perhaps he can be the shining light in the passing game.
Like I've been told so often in life, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket". Louis Murphy has only had two good weeks, so it would be a little hasty to go ahead and deem him the next best thing.
Still, he's looked good on paper and has been producing the results.
9. Jamaal Charles
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Hallelujah, the Chiefs are finally winning some games, and when Kansas City is 3-0 to start the year you can be damn sure that we are all going to hear about if from its fans.
Aside from the Chiefs' recent impressive traits, one of their sure to be star players stepped up a little this week, as Jamaal Charles finally resorted back to his 2009 rushing ways.
On the stat sheet, Charles still doesn't look that great. He did only rush for 97 yards against the 49ers, but what's important to remember is the fact that Charles is one of the main pieces to the puzzle of the Chiefs' latest success.
To relate Charles' performance the past three weeks to his efforts last year, a lot has changed. He has notably struggled to play well for entire games, and although he is young, he is beginning to disappoint a few people in Kansas City.
However, with this all in mind, Charles was definitely smelling his old 2009 ways yesterday. He failed to get the ball in the endzone, but when the scoreboard reads Kansas City 31, San Francisco 10, it's fair to say that his efforts went toward a worthwhile cause.
8. Joe Flacco
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Throughout the entire offseason, Joe Flacco was criticized for not stepping up as the starting quarterback in Baltimore, and instead sitting back and allowing the rest of the offense to carry him a little.
With serious work to do this season, Flacco needed to prove that he is good for the ride, and boy has he done so thus far.
From the very beginning of the season, Flacco has seemed like a new and improved quarterback. He has been passing well, taking his time, and as if the New York Jets win didn't fuel him enough, he has been more confident under center.
So with all of this in mind, it is no wonder that Flacco threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in the Ravens win over the Cleveland Browns this Sunday.
Now, as impressive as this all is, some fans may say that Joe Flacco has no right to be on this list. After all, he is a third year player, and most people feel that a starting quarterback of his caliber should have showed up long ago on the stat sheet.
While much of this is true, we must all keep in mind that Flacco is indeed still learning, and his experience is still low when it comes to the starting role.
Ravens fans will be applauding at the site of Joe Flacco right now. He is far from being Peyton Manning in the AFC, but when you compare his demeanor from 2009 to now, some significant changes have occurred in the span of an offseason.
Big things are likely to come from number five, but we'll have to wait and see. For now though, he's on the right track and is developing the Ravens offense under his own mindset.
7. Darren McFadden
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It's almost strange to look at the NFL's overall leading rushers at this point in the season and see Darren McFadden's name occupy the No. 3 spot.
Luckily for each and every Raider fan, McFadden has been one of the few promising players to come out of The Black Hole in the present time.
To put it simply, Darren McFadden has been impressive. For once he hasn't been inconsistent, and although it's early, McFadden's efforts on the field have been well and truly noted by everybody watching.
In the Raiders 23-24 loss to the Arizona Cardinals yesterday, McFadden continued to strive. He finished the game with 105 yards and a touchdown, and more importantly acted as one of the sole reasons for the Raiders' near-win in Arizona.
As unfortunate as the loss was for the Raider faithful, they can at least smile a little at the site of No. 20. With quarterback controversy now plaguing this team, Darren McFadden has done exceptionally well considering the circumstances.
For those that like to take notes, Darren McFadden is young and ready to prove himself. To think that after last season we were questioning him a little, McFadden's play the past three weeks has been above par.
Give him credit, he's been one of the few outstanding young players this season.
6. BenJarvus Green-Ellis
When it comes to experience and game time, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is one of the few starting rushers that has been thrown into the ultimate deep end this season.
With the departure of Laurence Maroney in New England, Green-Ellis has hit the ground running in his time as the Patriots starting rusher, and given that he is only in his third season in the NFL, he has looked mighty impressive.
Although the Patriots didn't see the big time win they would have hoped for against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, they did manage to iron out a few kinks, particularly in regards to Randy Moss. But aside from the rest of the team, Green-Ellis left any old memories of Laurence Maroney behind, as he complimented Tom Brady on offense.
And what were Green-Ellis' overall stats after Week 3?
Right now he sits at 139 yards and one touchdown, but that is only due to the fact that he was only announced the starter a little over a week ago.
As for Green-Ellis' stats against the Bills, he successfully ran for 98 yards and the one touchdown that sits high on his stat sheet.
In comparison to other young backs in the league, these stats aren't all that great. However, seeing as though he has been rushed into the No. 1 role and performed so well, Green-Ellis has impressed quite a few people this week.
Hopefully for the Patriots sake Green-Ellis continues to excel. We all know New England are mainly a pass-style team, yet at the same time it is always nice to have a reliable running back when things go a little haywire.
It's too early to determine whether Green-Ellis is the next best thing, but if you were basing a judgment off of this week, he may be a potential shining star.
5. Sam Bradford
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In one of the upsets of the week, the St. Louis Rams finally got a big-time win at home over a determined Washington Redskins side that looked poised for success under Donovan McNabb.
For the most part, this game was always labeled as a potential upset. The Rams had been edging closer and closer to a win the past two weeks, and although the Redskins were 1-1 heading in, Mike Shanahan's crew weren't exactly solid in all areas of the field.
Therefore, it is no wonder that St. Louis were able to end its winless streak.
But perhaps the bigger storyline to unfold for the Rams was Sam Bradford's brilliance, as he not only made a fantastic throw toward the endzone at the end of a quarterback scramble, he also finished the game with 235 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
For those of you that are a little optimistic, you most likely saw this coming. Not only was this game a potential upset waiting to happen, it was a matter of time before Sam Bradford hit the right spot and jumped that final hurdle to victory.
You can't get any younger than a rookie, and not even Jahvid Best's brilliance in the past three weeks could outdo Sam Bradford's play this week. Sure he had a career-high attempt margin two weeks ago, but aside from that he's payed dividends for St. Louis in every way possible.
4. Rashard Mendenhall
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For once in their illustrious history, the Pittsburgh Steelers have been flying under the radar, as they sit at a surprising 3-0 following a big time win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Thinking back to the offseason, most people didn't expect the Steelers to be in this position. Ben Roethlisberger was out for up to a month due to suspension, and with Dennis Dixon filling in it seemed unimaginable for Pittsburgh to win each of their opening four games.
Somehow though, Mike Tomlin's men have gotten it done, and the Steelers are now one of the sleeper picks in the AFC this year.
Yet as impressive as the whole team has been as of late, the Steelers young running back Rashard Mendenhall continues to add to his highlight reel in his third year in the NFL.
As it stands right now, Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 143 yards and one touchdown against the Bucs this weekend, impressive in its own right considering how good Tampa Bay often is at home.
To be quite frank, if this type of play continues when Ben Roethlisberger returns in two weeks time, the Steelers may once again enter the postseason. Pittsburgh have been lacking a decent run game in recent years, and although Willie Parker had his moments, he was of course hot and cold at the very best.
Rashard Mendenhall is here to stay, and that's something every Steeler fan can wave their terrible towel about. He's really stood up recently, and no matter how underrated the Steelers are, there's no denying that he is the main source of ground game in Pittsburgh these days.
3. Mark Sanchez
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Given that the Jets did have a few hair raising moments on Sunday night in South Beach against the Miami Dolphins, quarterback Mark Sanchez managed to weather the storm just enough to hold on for a 31-23 victory.
As previously mentioned, Joe Flacco was one of many quarterbacks that needed to step up this season. Among the likes of Flacco was also New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who had been criticized for allowing the Jets to carry the team to the postseason last year.
To follow up from this criticism, Mark Sanchez didn't look good in Week 1 against Baltimore. He notably struggled, and was put under the gun the very next week against New England. Luckily for Sanchez though, he rallied against the Patriots to earn the Jets a well fought victory.
So how did the franchise man in New York do against Tunatown this weekend?
Easy, Mark Sanchez did exceptionally well. Not only did he top his yardage stats from last week with 256, he also managed to throw for three touchdowns.
Confidence seems to be back in New York right now, and as a result the AFC East is all tied up if you discount the winless Buffalo Bills.
Better yet, Mark Sanchez is passing well, and really taking the bull by the horns. It's hard to delight Rex Ryan, but this type of leadership is what the Jets have lacked a little recently, following Braylon Edwards' charade.
2. Peyton Hillis
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If you look past the fact that the Browns are 0-3, some talent has really begun to rise to the top in Cleveland in the past three weeks.
First and foremost, the most impressive player in Cleveland this week was running back Peyton Hillis. Hillis, who is entering his third season in the NFL, rushed for 144 yards and one touchdown in the Browns loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
However, as shattered as Browns fans were at their misfortune, many stood up and applauded Peyton Hillis' work ethic and recognized how much undiscovered talent their team really does have at this point in time.
Realistically there isn't much else to say here other than Peyton Hillis had a really good game. Sure he's struggled the past two weeks, but maybe a kick start to his career is just what he needed.
If one thing is for sure, the Browns could certainly use Hillis' potential brilliance in coming weeks. What may be more important though is that the Browns exposed to the entire league how easy it is to rush against a tough Baltimore defense, and as dominating as Ray Lewis is, a tough guy like Peyton Hillis can still get the job done.
1. Austin Collie
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Ah Austin Collie, what would the Colts do without you?
Not only is this young second year player a joy to watch, when he posts stats such as 171 yards and two touchdowns against a tough Denver Broncos defense, head coach Jim Caldwell has no other option but to allow him more game time.
For those that know me, I've been promoting this young guy for quite some time. He was a standout last season in his rookie year, and although he struggles sometimes against bigger and better teams, most of the time he is as reliable as a Google search engine.
The best part of this story is yet to come. Austin Collie is one of those players that is sure to excel in future years, and as long as he sticks around in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning will make sure that happens.
Will he play even better next week?
Maybe, but for now let's relish in the fact that he is the best young star in the league right now, which is quite an accomplishment considering how much competition is at the Colts' receiving spots.